Passports and visas
You must have a valid passport. If you have a UK/EU passport, you can live, study, or work in the EU without a visa. However, some countries require you to have at least six months remaining on your passport, so check the visa website of the country you are travelling to and allow plenty of time to apply for a new passport.
Requirements for student visas will vary depending on the country and whether you are going to be a full-time student or visiting on an exchange programme, so check the websites of the universities you’re applying to and the national immigration/visa agencies. You may also need to get a residence permit – this is required to study in Germany, for example.
Before you go
- Make copies of all your important travel documents, such as your passport and travel insurance, and keep them in a separate place to the originals. Leave copies at home too in case you lose them!
- Get a supply of ID photos to take with you, as they are useful for things like student cards and travel passes when you’re away.
- Remember to take key contact details with you, including for your course provider in case you need advice or support if there is any disruption to your travel or accommodation arrangements.
- It’s also worth getting the contact details of the nearest British embassy, consulate, or high commission to your overseas destination.
Having access to money
- Make sure you know all your passwords for your UK bank accounts – if you are planning on using your accounts abroad, you may need to use your telephone banking and online services.
- Be prepared to open a local bank account.
- It is a good idea to open a British bank account that does not charge you for overseas transactions, and to set up an online banking account so you can check your balance.
- Currency cards are becoming more widely used – they are similar to a debit card, but pre-loaded with the currency of the country to which you are travelling. You can use the card to withdraw money from ATMs around the world and pay for goods directly.
- Ensure you have more than one means of payment available (cash, debit card, credit card).
- It’s important to make sure you have enough money to cover emergencies and any unexpected delays while you’re travelling.
Some countries stipulate a timescale in which you must get in touch with the authorities to let them know you are in the country. You may also have to provide documents to them such as your passport, valid health insurance, proof of enrolment at your host course provider, or proof from your host employer if you are volunteering or working abroad.
To enrol at your overseas university or college, you'll need to have a range of documents such as ID card/passport, notification of admission or the offer letter, original or certified copies of your entry qualifications, confirmation of health insurance, and any certificates for language exams which you may have had to take.
It’s really, really important! Check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website for guidance on vaccinations, health issues, and safety precautions before you travel – if they advise against travel, contact your home or overseas course provider about postponing your trip.
- You should have medical and travel insurance for the duration of your time abroad, including travel to and from the UK. Your home or overseas course provider will be able to advise you further.
- Also consider taking out an additional policy to insure your possessions, if this is not covered by your current/family’s insurance.
- If you go to any EU country, you should get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The quickest and easiest way to get an EHIC is to apply online – you will need your National Insurance number to hand. The EHIC is free of charge and entitles you to reduced cost, sometimes free, medical treatment that becomes necessary while you're away in Europe. Some people will not be able to use an EHIC after 1 January 2021 – please check the NHS website for more information.
- If you are going to be studying further afield, you may be required to have a medical examination and obtain a medical fitness certificate as a condition of obtaining a student visa, so check the requirements well in advance.